I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 (NIV)
In acting (for theatre, movies & television) there is a school of thought called the Stanislavski Method that involves the actor understanding the motivation of the character they are portraying. This supposedly leads to a more authentic performance. The actor is encouraged to answer the question, “What’s my motivation?” They are attempting to understand from the character’s point of view why they would say or do whatever is called for in the script. Once coming to that understanding they can perform more naturally and thus more effectively. I’m no actor, but I play one in real life. And it seems to me that this is a question that could help me to live my life more naturally and effectively. What’s my motivation? Why am I trying to impress certain people? Why do I go to church? Why am I here?
This is one of the things that the Apostle Paul addresses in his letter to the Philippians. Although he is writing to them from prison in Rome, Paul makes it clear to his beloved friends that things are well with him. Ironically, years earlier in Philippi, Paul and his partner Silas had been beaten and illegally imprisoned. The following day they were released and vigorously encouraged to leave the city. The Philippian Christians had thereafter been strong supporters of Paul, sending him supplies and gifts as he continued on his missionary journeys. Now that he was imprisoned in Rome, he sent this letter to reassure them. And one of the things he communicated to them was that, despite how it may appear, things were going well because he was accomplishing his purpose. At one point in the letter he states that, like he had done in Philippi years before, he was even winning the prison guards to Christ. Being in difficult circumstances, wouldn’t keep him from pressing toward the goal.
I wonder then, if we modern Christians can say the same thing? Actually, I suspect that many of us get distracted from the goal because we are concentrating on the prize. Notice that in his message, Paul says he is pressing “toward the goal to win the prize…” (Emphasis added) In his mind, the prize was what he would receive in heaven. Of course we have taken other Scriptures and recognized that there are prizes to win here on earth too. We receive the prophetic words from inspirational speakers who remind us that the blessings of the Lord makes you rich and doesn’t even add any sorrow! (Somewhere in the Bible, I forget where) I don’t disagree with the notion that the favor of God produces material blessings. But the prizes are not supposed to be the goal. The prize wasn’t Paul’s goal. Paul says in the Scripture that he was pressing for the GOAL. And he had already communicated what the goal was. Two verses earlier he said, “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil 3:12) In other words, he was motivated to fulfill his God-given purpose. The prize was what God would give him for reaching the goal.
So what’s your motivation?